Election Commission staff selling nomination papers at the Sabak Bernam land office for the Sungai Besar by-election in June 2016. BN retained the seat with a majority of 9,191 votes, beating candidates from Parti Amanah Negara and Pas. FILE PIC

POLITICS is never boring in Malaysia. There’s so much to talk about, and a lot of people have been giving their views on the coming 14th General Election, including veteran journalists, via blogs, news portals and social media.

One is quoted as saying that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government will retain power, but will not win the popular vote.

A veteran journalist laments there is too much focus on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the Pakatan Harapan candidate for prime minister.

Then, to make discussion interesting, there are others who quoted outsiders as portraying Malaysia’s elections as meaningless, describing it as such because this country, together with numerous Southeast Asian countries, return the same party to power time and time again.

It is another way of saying that elections are only meaningful if the ruling party loses.

The opposition in Malaysia may not have won federal power, but they have won a lot judging by the results of the last two elections.

So much so that nearing the election this time around, the Chinese vote has not come up yet in a big way as an issue. What will be the swing factor this time around for the Chinese community?

It is said that one of the reasons is MCA is no longer playing the role that the community wants, together with current issues involving race and religion.

This was discussed in the Ruang Bicara programme on Astro recently, involving MCA harmony bureau chairman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, Gerakan deputy speaker Syed Razak Alsagoff and special officer to the prime minister, Isham Jalil.

The discussion, hosted by Sherkawi Jirim, centred on the theme, “Trend Pemikiran Pengundi Cina (Chinese voting trends)”.

Ti feels the Chinese community should not continue to be fooled by the opposition’s tactic of bashing the government but, instead, ask how have they benefited from supporting the opposition.

Maybe this is in his thinking: people should judge the opposition by the goings-on in Selangor and Penang.

Are the people of the two states better or worse off under Pakatan’s administration?

Perhaps, the Chinese community should take into account the inclusive approach of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who emphasises a balanced policy for all.

Ti believes the Chinese have realised their mistake of believing in the opposition’s promises, not only in previous elections, but also current ones, which have not been delivered.

Ti stresses that there’s a generational shift when it comes to Chinese voters. Many are youngsters, who have a different perspective compared with the older generation, the former being more concerned about corruption, transparency and integrity.

They are also wondering why anybody would want to question their commitment and patriotism to the country of their birth.

For Syed, while those things are important, the Chinese community by now are aware that giving so much support to one side has not done them much good.

He is hoping that Chinese voters this time around will choose more MCA and Gerakan candidates, who can better represent them as part of the ruling bloc, which practises unity in diversity.

A case in point, despite being described as not a major force in the government, MCA and Gerakan played a big role when galvanising opinion on the Act 355 issue.

As for Isham, he wants the Chinese community to ask itself if it has been taken for granted by Pakatan leaders.

They seem too focused on getting Malay votes, as demonstrated by their ever-willing attitude to embrace Dr Mahathir, as if easily saying sayonara to more than two decades of hurt inflicted on them by the former prime minister, especially to the PKR leadership and its supporters, who fought for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Chinese community knows that the Pakatan machinery has been working in Malay areas to fish for support, assuming support from Chinese voters is in the bag.

However, according to Isham, feedback on the ground has shown that Malays are not with Dr Mahathir this time.

This is clear when Umno won the by-election in Sungai Besar in June 2016, when not many voted for the opposition, even with Dr Mahathir joining its campaign.

BN retained the seat with a majority of 9,191 votes, beating candidates from Parti Amanah Negara and Pas.

The most obvious change in the voting trend of the Chinese community can be seen in another by-election — Teluk Intan in 2014 — when DAP fielded a Malay candidate.

But she lost to her challenger from Gerakan.

Whatever the conjecture, more than four years have passed since the previous general election, giving the Chinese community and others ample time to rethink, re-analyse, readjust and make a stand again, since so much has happened since then.

Elections do matter in Malaysia. And this much is true: GE14 will be an election to watch, especially when it comes to how the Chinese will cast their votes.

Azman Abdul Hamid is BH features/op-ed editor. He can be reached via azmanabdulhamid@bh.com.my

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